Web3 and Web development trends to watch 2022

January 4, 2022

INTRO 

Technology, of course, is about science and engineering. But it’s also about fashion. Trends ebb and flow, adoption rates boom and decline, download numbers rise and fall. And promising innovations are adopted with enthusiasm one year yet fall out of favour the next. 

So for our new year blog, we’ve settled on 12 technologies and practises we think will be riding a hockey stick-shaped curve in 2022 – both upwards and downwards. Some you’ll agree with; others you won’t. And for at least one Purr seems to be in a distinct minority. (Spoiler alert: it’s number 8.) Plus a bonus 13th principle if you read right to the end. 

Just be reassured: when you work with Purr, we always recommend the best tool for the job. But to do that, we have to maintain a critical eye on the market. And while we live and breathe technology, we don’t like everything we see. 

Ready? Here’s the Purrview of what’ll be hot – and not – in 2022.

1. Mobile-first taking charge

Historically sites were designed first for the large-screen desktop or laptop UX, then adapted for handhelds like phones. As agencies learned more about how people used their devices, that’s split into a question of apps versus sites, with mobile (apps) being used for lean-forward goal-driven needs and sites being more for lean-back browsing and media consumption. (See our article on the same subject.)

An evolution of this: in 2022, the mobile will become primary. Anything with vaguely app-like functionality (including websites that “do stuff”) will be designed first for the mobile experience, and then adapted for other form factors. For the simple reason that people have their phones typically within two metres, 24 hours a day – and when they pick them up they’re in “lean-forward” mode, ready for action towards a goal. Precisely the behaviour any company wants to see from its customers. 

2. Dark mode as an option everywhere

Most phones have it by now, while individual apps often have it as an option. It’s dark mode, easier when reading in low-light conditions. It’s also good for the planet: lighting fewer pixels saves energy. (Especially when multiplied across a billion people looking at their phones 24 times a day.)

Surprisingly, adding dark mode isn’t as simple as it seems. Switch from black-on-white text to white-on-black, and the text itself becomes less readable depending on font choices; designers will, therefore, be thinking more and more about technologies like variable fonts, which subtly shift shape based on application without interrupting the user experience. Google’s catch-all Roboto Flex variable font (which one of our associates at Purr wrote the type specimen for!) isn’t quite the same in light and dark modes; the font itself is slightly weightier, with greater optical size to offset the darkness around it.

Regardless, expect Dark Mode to become an everyday option in operating systems, applications, and websites in 2022. Dark is the new green.

3. A return to the page metaphor . . . 

Early editions of WIRED magazine were beautifully colourful and creative but suffered the slight flaw (for a magazine) of being utterly impossible to read. 25+ years later, a lot of websites feel the same way: sections folding away on rollover, areas of the same page scrolling in strange ways, and a paucity of readable content. Many of them look “waaay cool” – but cool doesn’t equal useful. 

At Purr, we’re seeing a resurgence of old-school content-driven websites – information-rich pages organised into coherent groups, unashamedly offering a reading experience rather than an audiovisual one. And if the primary purpose of your site is to communicate, that’s absolutely fine. 

Expect to see more sites taking the simple route, with individual pages of content connected by links and organised by a navigation bar – while action-driven app-style sites stay splashy and text-light. There’s room on the web for both. 

4. . . but a rise in Single Page Applications

From many pages to one: that’s the SPA. Where all the action happens on a single page – often a responsive one that stretches and squashes in areas to expose or hide functionality. It’s useful for showing people “the edges of your jigsaw”, a sense of what they’re able to do on your site – and very useful for alternative form factors like public terminals and kiosks. 

So it’s likely 2022 will see a rise in apps where every active element shares a single, coherently-designed page, whatever the form factor it’s viewed on. After all, what’s more, simple and intuitive than a single sheet of paper? Think of it as like an old-style newspaper, where editors liked Broadsheet sizings so they could fit more stories on the front page.

5. Augmented and virtual reality becoming real

Despite the hype of Facebook’s “Metaverse”, actual AR and VR have more useful applications to our everyday lives – and that don’t have to be fully immersive story worlds. (Apologies to Skyrim fans.)  

Hold up your mobile to a street, and see buildings labelled with special offers? Navigate around a summer festival venue by proximity to friends? This is “Augmented” Reality, where cues, clues, and other information are pasted onto your environment, Pokemon Go style. It’s not full 3D sensory overload, but rather using the phone screen as a “window” into the virtual realm. Such technology is already in use in large buildings to navigate the corridors and in place of instructions for everything from flat-pack furniture to medical diagnosis. 

It’s been a long time coming, but we suspect AR and VR are set for a breakthrough in 2022.

6. Chatbots finally, er, chatting

We know, we know: everyone hates chatbots. That interminable pause before getting a response; the endless yes/no questions that never get you closer to an answer. But AI is now at the point where conversing in natural language is starting to be a real option for the mass market. 

What this means is that chatbots will move out of their “annoying technology” box – where they feel a bit like AVR (Automated Voice Response) decision trees in the 1990s – and become a valued and genuinely useful customer service option, loaded with knowledge and use cases, and with rules-based AI letting them learn and evolve rather than issue a fixed set of responses. Wait and see. 

7. The influence of blockchains

Everyone knows about BitCoin. But do you know the real blockchain party doesn’t involve currencies? 

Blockchains work by creating an (allegedly!) foolproof copy of a ledger spread across all participants. This is what lawyers call a “legal fiction”: a little world with rules which must be obeyed in order to take part, as a limited company. This offers a route to self-reinforcing contracts, something of a Holy Grail in business. 

A self-reinforcing contract is like arguments in lines of code: once certain conditions are satisfied (such as delivering 100 widgets to customer X) an agreed action – such as a payment – happens immediately, triggered by that condition being fulfilled. Which sounds like a great way to do business. Fewer lawyers can only be a good thing.

8. The rise of Web3

Following on from our blockchain thoughts comes Web3, which we agree is going to be huge – just not perhaps as soon as some believe. 

Web1.0 was the early internet: static HTML pages, hyperlinks, and any colour you like as long as it was blue links on a white background. Web2.0 is the one we’re used to today: dynamic, responsive, database-driven, sites connected to backend systems and APIs that let business get done. Web3 (which drops the .0 by convention) is the latest evolution and one you’ll be hearing more about in 2022.

What is Web3? The key concept is decentralisation. Just as blockchains allow coinage without a central bank and contract fulfilment without a lawyer, they also allow an internet without, er, an internet authority. 

Right now, the way we use the web (typing in plain English, like purrgroup.com) is actually a fudge. The “real” web address is a series of numbers (called a “dotted quad”) and technology from an organisation called ICANN “resolves” the words you enter into the right string of numbers that identifies the site. This means the web does, indeed, have overlords (and overladies) – 14 of them – and if a regular “key ceremonies’ ‘ dissolved into chaos, the whole naming system of the web would be under threat. 

Web3 defangs this threat, by applying blockchain principles to the web and its resources: everyone carries a copy of the naming ledger around with them, updated in real-time. With all the advantages such decentralisation offers.

What advantages? Freedom from authority. Applications are distributed across the web, rather than having a single point of failure. The opportunity to run private networks or public ones, with no site in thrall to an ISP or intrusive government. And so on. 

Not all these features will be positive – but watch out, 2022, Web3 is coming. 

9. The death of NFTs

Some technologies, thankfully, will disappear. Let’s come clean: at Purr, we don’t “get” Non Fungible Tokens or NFTs. 

Whether it’s the original JPG of Side-eye Girl or programmatic iterations of the Bored Ape, it’s hard to see where the value of an NFT actually resides. A graphic artwork can be owned, yes. But why should that artwork be valued in the multiple millions, as some have when copies of that artwork are everywhere for free?

NFTs tend to lack the attributes of genuine collectables. They are not rare, unique, or intrinsically valuable. So we’re taking a bold step: this party is over, and in 2022 people who paid $250,000 for a cartoon of an under-employed primate will realise: WHAT were we thinking?

10. Micropayments becoming a bigger thing

While paying online is easy, there’s still some way to go before the PITA (pain in the neck) factor disappears and you can drop someone a pound in a second without worrying about fees or logins. This is changing.

The driving force: this is an API story. The agreements between the world’s payment networks (like SWIFT and SEPA) are now well-defined and precisely specified – two factors that make them ripe for automation through APIs. And APIs, as interfaces connecting different systems, also scale brilliantly, meaning each company and individual using them increases the value returned as a whole. 

Just as nobody today can imagine a world without tap-to-pay, it’s likely simple micropayments will be firmly a Thing by the end of 2022. If you doubt this, look at the streets of any city in China – where even the meanest noodle stand takes tiny payments already.
 

11. Sites designed for Things as well as people

From desktops to laptops to tablets to phones, the theme is: things that connect to the Internet get smaller over time. That’s the IoT or the Internet of Things. 

In 2022, people will be “accessing the web” from devices in their pockets, on their wrists, attached to their bodies … even inside their bodies. Those accesses won’t be of web pages – your earring doesn’t need to consult Wikipedia – but of web services. Watches are monitoring health; financial institutions are putting payment functionality into festival wristbands. And sites are being built that no human will ever read, storing vast databases of social and personal information. 

So expect savvy developers to be proposing IoT-compliant control and communication systems for your business, bringing your customers even closer to you. It’s best to be ready. 

12. Sites integrated with digital workplace and smart buildings

The worlds of smart buildings (systems in offices and factories, like access control and HVAC) and the digital workplace (systems workers use, like applications) are converging. And marching onward to the home: Ring doorbells, Philips Hue lighting, Herschel’s infrared heaters, and the ubiquitous SmartLife app. 

By the end of 2022, every major device in your life will be integrable, if you want it – and that opens up possibilities far beyond digital fridges. Imagine lights not just switching on and off, but sensing your mood. Or a grocery list that updates itself, even ordering to keep your pantry stocked. While the pantry itself monitors temperature and adjusts accordingly to stop food wastage.

When you connect everything, you enable everything. And slowly but surely, web-enabled versions of every home and work appliance are arriving in the market. This of course gives rise to security worries – hence our bonus 13th: SASE. 

Bonus 13th: security moving to the edge, everywhere

The traditional web services security model authenticates your login at the “core”: every user going through the same process, on the same server, to access corporate resources regardless of where they are. This is wasteful, restrictive, and doesn’t scale well. So in 2022, a new model identified in 2019 will hit its stride: SASE, pronounced “sassy”. 

In SASE – Secure Access Service Edge – authentication happens “at the perimeter”. Imagine a mediaeval city: the guards don’t let you go to the palace to identify yourself. They check you at the edge, and restrict your movements severely if you don’t have the right credentials no matter who you are: it’s “zero trust”. Expect edge models like SASE to be the go-to by the end of 2022.

CONCLUSION

As the above proves, technology is rushing forward. Fortunately, it’s our job at Purr to stay on top of every trend and what it means for your business. This means we’ll use the technologies that make the most sense – even if we have to create them ourselves. 

If you’re intrigued by the possibilities of Web3, AR, SASE and so on, give us a call. We’d be happy to talk over your options. And if you disagree with us on NFTs, we’ve got a GIF of our MD Nick in a Christmas hat you can have for just £250,000 …